Hi, I’m Gretchen! I write a little bit of everything, but am narrowing my genre focus to fantasy. I’m a Pisces that actually does enjoy walking on the beach at night, cat person, tea drinker, trumpet player, and reader.
MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
GT: The fact that “What if…?” can turn into tens or hundreds of pages of something new and exciting. I love discovering new, fictional places and getting to know my characters, who are all far braver and more interesting than I could ever be. I’ve dabbled in a lot of other art forms, but this is the one that really lets me push my imagination to its limit.
MM: So, what have you written?
GT: A lot of my writing these days is for my “day job” as a freelance copywriter, but when I’m not doing that, I blog about writing and in the future will be blogging more specifically about the fantasy genre. I was an early contributor to Backlog Magazine and am one of the contributors for Volume 2, Issue 1 of The Asexual. I’ve written short stories and novel-length manuscripts, but they have yet to find homes (and, in some cases, I’m grateful for it). I also participate in National Novel Writing Month and was a local volunteer for two of my five years.
MM: When did you know writing was for you?
GT: Every time I’ve tried to quit writing and focus on something more “real” or “practical” as a career, writing came back with a pile of new ideas and a really skeptical look. Very few other things in my life have ever held on with the tenacity that writing has, and I stuck with it because I love it and clearly it plans to stick around.
MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
GT: At the moment, I’m working on revising what I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2017: a fantasy novel entitled The Kingmaker’s War until I find something better to call it. It was loosely inspired by the characters and to a lesser extent events of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign I’m playing. I was interested in exploring what would drive someone to become an adventurer in the high fantasy sense, how a world would actually treat this sort of person, and the psychological ramifications of what they were experiencing. In a game, a character can completely recover from their dragon-fighting injuries by eating dinner and sleeping for eight hours, but what if that wasn’t an option? What if you had to live with the mental and physical consequences of your dragon-slaying? What, or who, would keep you going? Could you even go back to a normal life after your experiences?
MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?
GT: Not including fanfiction (of which there was plenty), I vaguely remember writing a story about a haunted elementary school that I believe was simply called The Haunted School. The entire “book” was shaped like a ghost, and I think it had a twist ending where the narrator either was a ghost the whole time or became one by the end (I was a bit of an R.L. Stine fan, if that explains anything). I think the seeds of the kind of writer I would become and am still striving to be are definitely there: something fantastic and a little dark with a narrator that defies expectations. Smaller me was fearless with ideas in a way that, looking back now, I’m a little envious of.
MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
GT: I like to say that I’m a Plotter, but outlines have never actually worked for me and there might be more Pantser in me than I originally thought. I need a premise and a few pivotal scenes in mind before I can even begin to write an idea, but once I’m started I won’t necessarily say “no” to anything that I discover along the way. I can’t have literally everything planned before I start, but I also can’t just open a blank document and go. I need a combination of direction and flexibility to be at my best.
MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
GT: I actually really hated flash fiction when I was in college. I wasn’t very good at fitting a complete narrative (we’re talking exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution on the page) in 150 words or fewer. This was true of microblogging, even—believe it or not, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Twitter. As you can tell from a lot of my answers to these questions, I’m long-winded in a way that ran counter to my experience with flash fiction.
What got my attention about #FP and other Twitter-length fiction, though, was what wasn’t said. #FP is more about capturing meaningful moments and trusting the reader to fill in the details about the scenario. When thought of that way, I felt a lot more comfortable with it: longer fiction is just a series of moments that all contribute to the story or characters, and #FP just isolated that.
MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home? 🙂
GT: The best writing advice I’ve ever received is “Write what scares you.” Fear is an emotion I can get in touch with really pretty easily, and picking apart and articulating what scares me is extremely helpful for me personally as well as a useful skill for writing. Fear is at the heart of most if not all conflicts, and it’s useful to give it a good, hard look in order to make conflicts believable and plots tense.
MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
GT: Getting past my personal blocks and actually getting the words on paper. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me, and I often get paralyzed right out the gate because I never feel like an idea is perfect. I’ve found NaNoWriMo extremely helpful in getting past this block just because of the emphasis on getting the words down now and asking questions later.
MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?
GT: I don’t always remember to say it in the moment, but “It will come back. It always does.” Sometimes talking about my ideas with other people helps, and sometimes doing something dramatically different can help ideas flow. Just because I’m stuck now doesn’t mean that I’m stuck forever: there will always be more ideas and more time.
MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
GT: This is going to sound like the most boring thing ever and not particularly wacky, but I picked up drinking hot water with lemon during last NaNoWriMo in order to make my tea supply last a little longer, and I honestly think it’s part of why that draft went so well. Staying hydrated is obviously good for your body and mind, and it also ensures that you get up frequently for bathroom trips. Even a few moments away from the screen, journal, or wherever you do your writing can be the difference between giving up and pushing through a creative block.
MM: As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal or avatar? We’ve heard the craziest things, and we’re curious!
GT: My writing habits could be accurately represented by a housecat “avatar.” I tend to write in short but very intense bursts of chasing new and shiny ideas with an embarrassingly large chunk of time dedicated to metaphorically napping in the sun.
MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?
GT: I’ve been reading a lot of horror lately and picked up a couple of classics. I loved Frankenstein far more than I thought I would. None of the adaptations do the heart of this novel justice. If you haven’t read the book yet, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared for how much it makes you think and the kind of questions it asks you to answer.
MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
GT: Stay hydrated! It really is helpful!
But besides that, don’t be a hermit. Writers have a reputation for being loners that stay holed up with our manuscripts until they’re done, but that simply isn’t sustainable long-term. People, good or bad, can be inspiring in that they provide new ideas and perspectives. As long as you’re feeling up for social interaction, take breaks once in a while to see and talk to other people. Go to bar trivia, board game night, yoga class, a friend’s house, or wherever else is appropriate for your time, interests, and budget. Ideas have a knack for showing up when you’re not looking for them, so go out, have fun, and keep something to write on handy.
MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work? (*Include links to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube channel, whatever you’re on and wherever you are.)
ExoSpira World Unauthorized Memoria
By Gretchen Turonek
The video started as many of the ExoSpira Memorias do. There was blackness as the Confession Crystal needed to come online, a flash of a screen, and then the inside of a medieval-looking room. It was one viewers had grown used to seeing, one home to the Bard portrayed by an internet personality and musician that went by TroubadOboe. TroubadOboe looked much like she always did in this series: a very well-animated fantasy elf wearing simple peasant garb with contrasting pieces of jewelry that boosted some of her in-game magical attributes.
This wasn’t a typical Memoria, though. For a company like Gamix, the animation quality was severely lacking, but she definitely looked sadder than she did in a lot of her other posts. The Confession Crystal that she was speaking into occasionally flickered with digital artifacts, and she was near-continuously recalibrating it to capture her face. It took her a few moments to speak.
I wish I had something a little better for this update, especially because I need to do it secretly. I don’t even know if anyone will see it, but I have to at least try to reach the outside world and share what’s really going on. Avi—MagusTer, for those of you that only know us by our aliases—managed to jailbreak a Confession Crystal before… I guess I can’t even say “before he died,” because I don’t know that’s what happened to him. I don’t know what happens to us when we take lethal damage and disappear. I fear the worst: I’d be lying if I said I hope for the best, though.
Well. It’s been a year. In-universe, at least. Has it been a year out there for you guys? I don’t actually know. Inbound messages that we’re allowed to see don’t have time stamps on them. I can tell you that you’re not getting the full story: our outbound messages have been heavily edited if not completely censored so that the truth of this never gets out. That’s why I’m hoping that Avi pulled through for me and that this works.
I was contacted by a company you’ve probably heard of called Gamix. I was supposed to be an alpha tester for a fantasy V.R. game, and I specifically was brought on to critique the music and try the mechanics of the game’s Bard class on for size. They really wanted me to show off the “unique and intuitive” spellcasting and music composition mechanics. I agreed because they promised payment and a huge sponsorship and I thought it would be awesome for my brand—TroubadOboe the medieval music enthusiast, performer, and scholar participating in such a mainstream project? How cool was that going to be? How could I say no?
I knew something was off after my party’s first encounter. Why would something that’s just a game program pain or exhaustion, let alone make healing so difficult? It was a reality show from the beginning. A virtual reality show broadcast on the internet that everyone bought into because we look like animated characters. We were actors. Entertainment.
I suppose I shouldn’t expect any of you to believe me. Maybe the only people that are even listening anymore are the trolls that wouldn’t care even if they knew. Maybe they’re going to let this Confession through for the drama, and honestly? I don’t know if I care anymore.
I’m scared to stay here, but I’m more scared to leave. I have no idea how long it’s been or what’s happened to me—the real me—while I’ve been stuck in here. This all feels real, but if I’m hooked up to a headset, it’s all in my mind right now. I know it’ll be hard to play anymore: the movements are different here, and my fine motor skills and embouchure are probably shot. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to walk, let alone use the pedals on a piano. And even if I had those things and was able to get out, my fans have probably gotten sick of waiting and left. The couple of sponsors that I already had are probably gone, too, because I’m not producing content. There’s just not much left for me if I get out of here.
And…. Well, who would believe me, anyway? It’s just part of the game. It’s part of the show. It’s all an act.
Anyway. TroubadOboe out.